Objective: This study was performed to evaluate in vivo and in vitro data on the effects of the adrenal steroid dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) with emphasis on its potential use in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: The literature dealing with DHEA was reviewed.
Results: Initially, research on DHEA focused on effects of DHEA in relation to obesity. Over the past decade, research stimulated by associations between the physiological decline in DHEA and aging, cardiovascular disease, changes in metabolism, brain function, and immune senescence have generated insight into the many effects that DHEA or its metabolites may have. In SLE a role for sex hormones in both the etiopathogenesis and disease activity is recognized. In SLE, as in aging, low DHEA levels are frequently found, especially with corticosteroid treatment.
Conclusions: Research data in the elderly, on both hormonal and immunologic effects, suggest that DHEA may become an adjunctive treatment for SLE patients.